How many weeks have The Who spent at No. 1 on the UK album chart, since their first appearance there in December 1965? The very surprising answer is one. On the chart for 18 September 1971, Pete, Roger, John and Keith hit the top with the mighty Who’s Next.
The album had debuted in runner-up spot the week before, behind Simon & Garfunkel’s long-running Bridge Over Troubled Water. In week two, Who’s Next moved to the summit, before itself being unseated a week later by Deep Purple’s Fireball.
It was The Who’s fifth album to reach the UK top ten, and they would repeat the feat another ten times, including with 2006’s Endless Wire. In July 2015, the Who Hits 50 compilation came extremely close to extending that run when it rebounded to No. 11, during the band’s 50th anniversary tour. But they have never got back to No. 1.
Who’s Next, produced by the band with associate producer Glyn Johns, would become their most successful in the States in terms of RIAA certification. It was certified triple platinum and reached No. 4 in a 41-week chart run. That repeated the peak of the ‘Tommy’ album that preceded it, and while Quadrophenia went to No. 2 in 1973, it’s only certified single platinum.
Regarded by many as the band’s finest hour, Who’s Next is bookended by the superb ‘Baba O’Riley’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ and also includes such all-time Who classics as ‘Bargain,’ ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ and the majestic ‘The Song Is Over.’
“I’d always felt rock was capable of doing more than the three-minute-fifteen-second track approach,” Pete Townshend told Steve Turner in Beat Instrumental in December 1971, a few months after the album’s release. “But the question now is what we can do with this extended piece of time?
“Today the Who’s problem is that piece of time on the album and on stage has become so predictable. We feel we have to find a new thread that maybe isn’t a standard rock procedure, but that nevertheless has the same fundamental simplicity. My cause is to liberate the group from its own shackles.”
Who’s Next can be bought here.